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A Life Without Consequences Hardcover – October 1, 2001


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New Adult Fiction by Rainbow Rowell
Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell's latest book, Landline, offers a poignant, humorous look at relationships and marriage. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 186 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage; 1ST edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0967370175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0967370170
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,730,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on the author's harrowing experiences, this first novel is a journey into homelessness, youthful angst, drugs and hopelessness in Chicago. Paul, 14, runs away from home and is quickly picked up by the police after slashing his wrists. Placed in the adolescent unit of a mental institution and deeply depressed, he reviews his life, seeking solace from the motley crew of his fellow inmates. All are equally rootless and confused. French Fry is horribly disfigured following an attempt to burn himself to death; Mike swallowed pills; Jay set fire to a church. Escaping with Tanya, another inmate, Paul commences a twisted life on the streets, interrupted by a short, terrifying stint at the infamous Robert Taylor Homes housing project. Although Elliott keeps the scenes strong and succinct, he frequently pushes the pace so hard that the reader is unable digest what has come before. His ability to capture the fragile sensibility of troubled youth is uncanny, however, and his descriptions of life on the streets are crookedly lyrical. Paul tries to retain his humanity despite being placed in a series of ineffective group homes, and though constantly struggling to adjust to the outside world and become a "normal" human being, he is restless, unable to stay in one place; he eventually hits bottom during a stint in a mental hospital. Finally landing in yet another Chicago group home, he makes a last push toward sanity and stability. The bittersweet conclusion doesn't quite satisfy, but this is an impressive debut, a promising work of fiction and an eloquent expression of life as few people are unlucky enough to know it.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-With gritty, unrelenting realism, Elliott offers a semiautobiographical tale of a runaway who must navigate his way through Chicago's juvenile services system. Paul escapes from his abusive father and is picked up by the police and placed in a psychiatric ward where he is confronted with the first of many adults who prey upon youth. The teen is shuffled in and out of many places before settling into a group home where he begins to assume some sense of normalcy by attending a "real world" high school. There he battles against depression and struggles to make a life for himself outside of the institutionalized settings that have shaped his life. While some young people will find it hard to read about the harsh reality of drugs, prostitution, homelessness, and violence that this teen is confronted with, others will find it compelling and be able to relate to many of his hardships. This is a novel that will leave readers rooting for Paul and hoping that he will succeed.
Julie Dasso, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alison Clement on March 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Elliott has an important story and a voice that can tell it. I'm a former runaway, now working with poor kids--- and it's gratifying to hear somebody tell the story that so many children are living. He gives a human face to a huge social problem. I recommend this to anyone who works with kids or cares about our future.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"A Life Without Consequence" is one of the best books I've read this year. It's a quick, satisfying read, touching and poignant, but never overly sentimental or maudlin. What I liked most about the book is that it tells an interesting and compelling story of a boy's life while also providing an intimate look into the world of homeless and group home children. Though the subject is at times heavy, reading this book is a pleasure.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. Gall on March 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
On the day Stephen Elliott's A Life Without Consequences arrives a flyer is placed on my door asking for donations to a "foster bundles" program which will give backpacks and suitcases filled with necessities to kids taken into protective custody. Three days of incessant reading later, I will come to find the synchronicity of events almost bizarre.
Elliott's novel is a semi-autobiographical account of his pilgrimage through life as a ward of court. On the book's web site, a reviewer claims it should be required reading for anyone involved in the system. I disagree. It should be required reading. Period.
A Life Without Consequences follows the fall and rise of 14-year-old Paul, a runaway from the memories of a dead mother and an abusive father. Homeless and depressed, Paul slits his wrists-setting him on a journey through a series of institutions and group homes. Throughout teen years of love and loss, Paul recounts with abject realism the ebb and flow of life. Real life.
Many novels of similar ilk falter in the murkiness of melodrama. Elliott steps beyond those bounds with stark candor and humility of the initiated. Without depending on descriptive narratives, Elliott paints his characters with precise dialog so brutally and realistically that it leaves the reader wondering how semi- is semi-autobiographical. The lines between fiction and reality are that hazy under Elliott's pen.
If you're looking for sympathetic rationale or a wan victim's tale, leave Elliott's book on the shelf. He's smart, witty and a brilliant combination of self-deprecation and ego. If you're looking to own an early novel by an author you can count on rising to glory, open up your wallet. While the story is engaging, it's a ruse for Elliott's pared down prose.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sheri Will on March 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A fast-paced account of a boys search for love and belonging on the gritty streets of Chicago. He survives abuse by his father and the death of his mother. Follow him through his struggles in mental institutions and group homes where he meets others like him as he becomes determined to not end up another tragedy.
He brilliantly captures the voice of kids growing up with everything stacked against them.
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